An Afrofuturist ‘Midsummer’ Comes to St. Louis Park | Art Stories & Interviews | St. Louis

Click to enlarge

Courtesy St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

This is the second trip to the park for the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival; the first is Othello.

Some are made for the stage. Others stumbled across it.

Tre’von Griffith grew up in the northern city and developed an interest in theatre.At the age of eight, he landed his first professional role in the production of Black Rep Joe Turner’s Comes and Goes.

Brandin Vaughn of College Town may never have discovered the industry.Fashion designer and owner of Cherokee Street store Brandin Vaughn Collection, who was named costume designer for Black Rep’s Spell 7 That was running in early 2020 (before being cut off by the pandemic).

This summer, two creatives, taking very different paths, came together for the production of the St. Louis Shakespeare Festival. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, will stop at 24 regional parks. The tour starts on August 2nd and runs until August 27th. The free 90-minute show starts at 6:30pm every Tuesday through Sunday.

The play tells the story of the preparations for the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. The four lovers, including Theseus’ daughter, step into the forest and clash with a feud between the Fairy Royals and the trickster Fairy Parker. The hilarity ensued, but as one of the comedies, it all ended in marriage.

Griffith, a musician and composer, also known as Tre G, served as director and Vaughan as costume designer. The production art director is Tom Ridgeley.

The show has an all-black company of local actors. The cast, the show’s accessibility, and the way the theatre has always been Griffith and Vaughan’s creative home are all relevant, and explain why everyone jumped at the chance to attend.

Click to enlarge The show has an all-black company of local actors.

Courtesy St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

The show has an all-black company of local actors.

“Cool thing [is] Get into the different communities in St. Louis and interact with them like never before,” Griffith said. “And, it’s about representation. “

“As a kid, I didn’t have a black designer as a role model,” Vaughan added. “That doesn’t exist. So I’m going to be the catalyst for this. … If you dream about it, you can do it.”

To bring this dream to life, Griffith decided to adopt Afrofuturism—an aesthetic that imagines a preeminent future for black people through the use of technology, and often includes elements of science fiction—as a unifying concept. He said the show worked well because a lot of time was spent in Dreamworld, an environment with a lot of room for creativity.

“I want to be able to tell stories that are representative of the world we live in now,” he said.

This theme is most strongly expressed in clothing and music. Griffith draws from a variety of musical styles, including R&B and gospel, and combines them with a “futuristic synth” aesthetic and driving beats.

For the costumes, Vaughan used colorful African fabrics for the characters to bring the actors to life on stage. And then for Fairy, he was futuristic, making helmets out of motherboards, floppy disks and pipes. He focused on distinguishing the actors and making sure the costumes didn’t suffocate those performing outside in St. Louis’ sweltering heat.

Click to enlarge A Midsummer Night's Dream Poster

Courtesy St. Louis Shakespeare Festival

St. Louis Shakespeare Festival A Midsummer Night’s Dream Will stop at 24 regional parks and run through Sunday, August 27th.

Some of the most popular pieces include a 24-piece down vest with a pleated cape/wings on the back, and a mirrored asymmetric bodice with jagged edges that reflect light across the stage.

“The costumes really help tell the story,” Vaughan said. “Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream It’s a story we’ve seen over and over again. But when I read the script, I had the opportunity to show my opinion of the story, [and] This is the most important part for me. “

While Griffith didn’t change anything about the script, he said he also made an interpretation that made everyone watching feel at home and able to digest the action on stage. The process starts with mining the text itself, then creating a mood board, and finally talking with the creative team about how to bring the vision to life.

“A lot of times when you say Shakespeare, you don’t necessarily think it’s for everyone,” Griffith said. “And it does.”

It’s not just the team’s specific approach to making the show available to anyone, Griffith said. It’s inherent in the story, which has a character, Hermia, who wants to marry a man chosen for love, not her father.

“This generation, we believe in doing the right thing and going against those social norms,” ​​Griffith said. “Everyone wants her to marry this guy…she wants to follow her heart.”

See the next show on August 5th at 6:30pm Etzel Heights Subdivision (1220 Robert L Powell Place) or find future shows at stlshakes.org/production/midsummer-tour.

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